The Seattle Seahawks wrapped up the first four weeks of the 2022 NFL Season with a 2-2 record and in a four team logjam at .500 in the NFC West. Unfortunately, when applying the applicable tiebreakers to that four-way tie, the Hawks wind up with the short stick and in last place by virtue of division and conference winning percentages. However, the fact that they are even in the discussion at this point is likely a shock to many who had written them off.
On the subject of shocks, the two biggest shocks in terms of the performance of the team so far are likely how shockingly bad the defense has been, while on the flip side of the ball how shockingly not bad quarterback Geno Smith has been. His play through the first four weeks of the season speaks for itself, and fans are now seeing for themselves what the coaching staff and teammates witnessed through the offseason program and training camp. In addition, as Field Gulls noted back in August, what Smith is showing on the field is what he showed to the coaching staff in team meetings and practices and why Drew Lock was never really in serious contention to start.
There has been no shortage of praise for what Smith has done on the field so far this season, in addition to Smith being named Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Lions.
Geno Smith has more passing yards (1,037) this season than:— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 4, 2022
Kirk Cousins pic.twitter.com/hWDbEdy1ds
Tom Brady really sacrificed a 13 year marriage with a super model just to have a worst QBR than Geno Smith— MereKat (@MereKatKat) October 4, 2022
Alright, so I'm fully finished with watching the #Seahawks offense vs the Lions and my only reaction is the following to Shane Waldron and Geno Smith:— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) October 4, 2022
Holy crap, what a freaking game. They had answers for EVERYTHING. From start to finish I was blown away by the execution. pic.twitter.com/efJclM9hse
Here's where Geno Smith ranks among NFL quarterbacks this year:— Cigar Thoughts (@CigarThoughts) October 4, 2022
*1st in Comp%
*4th in Yards per Attempt
*6th in TD/INT ratio
*5th in QBR
*3rd in Passer Rating
This level of on-field performance has, of course, brought the discussion regarding Geno and his potential future with the Hawks to the point of early discussions of what kind of contract he could potentially demand, or whether the franchise tag would be warranted. So, instead of randomly guessing, here’s a look at a handful of quarterbacks who performed similarly to Smith in roughly approximately the same number of games over a season or two before reaching free agency, along with the size of the contract they signed.
Four quarterbacks is certainly a small sample size, but the simple fact of the matter is that there are not a lot of quarterbacks allowed to reach free agency. Jameis Winston would fit the criteria, but even he received $15.2M fully guaranteed coming off a torn ACL with no guarantees he would be available for the 2022 season. Meanwhile, Nick Foles ($22M per year), Teddy Bridgewater ($21M per year) and Brock Osweiler ($18M per year) all changed teams when their prior employer decided they were not worth what the market was willing to pay them. Foles, of course, gets an asterisk next to his name, as in addition to the starts listed in the table, he also had five additional postseason starts in that stretch, along with starting for the Philadelphia Eagles in their Super Bowl win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, opted to make Jimmy Garoppolo the highest paid quarterback in the league at $27.5M at a time when the salary cap was just $167M, which on a percentage of cap basis translates to somewhere in the $37M range on a projected $225M salary cap for 2023. That number is likely a little bit light when accounting for cap slippage and the rapid acceleration of salary increases for high end players, quarterbacks in particular. However, regardless of whether a high number in 2023 would more accurately represent the present day value of Garoppolo’s 2017 contract, the key point to take away is that the number is higher than both the projected franchise tag for quarterbacks for 2023 of $31.497M per OverTheCap.com and the average cap hit of Russell Wilson’s contract prior to his trade to the Denver Broncos.
In short, regardless of exactly how much Smith may sign for in the spring with the Seahawks, or with another quarterback needy team, at the end of the day the options for Seattle may soon become to pay Smith almost as much as they were paying Wilson or start the search for a quarterback all over in the offseason.
Whichever of those options the team decides, this discussion will certainly continue for as long as Smith continues to perform at a high level. And, should he continue to perform at this level for the duration of 2022, then the comparables for any potential contract will evolve to include the likes of Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum.